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Great experience… Dylan Blomquist (back row, fourth from left) and Kaya Fukushima (front row, left) join the other Otago Medical School students who played in the New Zealand Doctors’ Orchestra in New Plymouth last month.

Something special can happen when medicine and music come together.

Otago medical students Dylan Blomquist and Kaya Fukushima loved their first experience playing in the New Zealand Doctors’ Orchestra last month and are encouraging other students to join them.

Second-year student Dylan, who plays the tuba, says, “I loved the opportunity to meet new people from all over the country, especially as a student. It gave me a chance to get some valuable advice and hear stories from all over the workforce.”

Kaya, a trainee intern based at Dunedin Hospital, agrees. She plays the violin and says the best part of the experience was being able to meet people at different stages of their medical career, including students from other campuses, doctors working in a variety of specialties and those who have retired.

“Being at the stage where I have yet to decide the direction of my career, it was helpful to hear about the experiences of these doctors in their respective specialities and geographic locations. And, of course, it was heartening to see that they were able to continue their passion for music in what seemed to be an impossibly busy career.”

The Acting Dean of the Otago Medical School, Professor Tim Wilkinson, is one of the organisers of the New Zealand Doctors’ Orchestra (NZDO), along with his wife Dr Lynette Murdoch and son Dr Tom Wilkinson.

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The New Zealand Doctors’ Orchestra plays to an attentive audience at the Theatre Royal in New Plymouth.

Professor Wilkinson, who plays the double bass, says lots of doctors are keen musicians who struggle to find the time to play music.

“We formed the orchestra to give doctors and medical students an opportunity to play in a high-quality national orchestra, to encourage collegiality and to enhance work-life balance.”

The NZDO meets only once a year for three days, concluding with a public concert on the Sunday. This year it was held in New Plymouth in late July, with 76 players taking part. Participants pay their own expenses, but there are subsidies available for student players.

Proceeds from concert ticket sales are donated to charity.

Dylan says it was great to be able to play the tuba again after not really playing since high school, and it was a “really nice break from study”.

“I’d definitely encourage others to join - the more the merrier!”

Kaya says, “My advice to any medical students who are considering joining next year is not to be intimidated by the fact that it is a group of doctors who are more senior than you. It is a relaxed and friendly environment where everyone is here to play music and have fun.”

-  Kōrero by Andrea Jones, Team Leader, Divisional Communications

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